Getting to Know: Melons
Melons come in nearly every shape, size, and color. What lies beneath the thick rinds of these fruits? To find out, we sampled 12 varieties that range from everyday to heirloom.
The most consumed melons in the U.S., watermelons often surpass 20 pounds. They have green-striped skin and red, “porous” flesh that is heavily seeded, “sticky-sweet,” and “refreshing.” Aside from the flesh, the rind (usually pickled) and seeds (roasted and salted) are edible.
Named for the Italian town Cantalupo, the common North American variety of this melon boasts a netted, greenish-tan rind and fragrant orange flesh. Sometimes referred to as “muskmelons,” cantaloupes are at once “sugary and savory,” with a distinct “peppery, musky overtone.”
These oblong, yellowish-white melons hail from Asia. Their “mild” flesh is “crisp” and “almost savory.” Tasters found the flavor to be “more vegetal than fruity” and pegged it as a “perfect addition to a green salad.”
Slightly oval, with smooth, pale yellowish-green skin, the honeydew melon has been a favorite in Africa and the Middle East for thousands of years. The pastel green flesh of this medium-sized melon is “velvety smooth” and “super-sweet,” with a bare hint of “honeysuckle.”
This petite heirloom watermelon is recognizable for its golden rind and salmon-pink flesh. Its texture is more “finely grained and crisp” than that of the common watermelon. The flavor is “bright and acidic,” with an “understated sweetness” and “cucumber” overtones.
This wrinkly-skinned melon is named for Kasaba, Turkey, the city that first exported the fruits. The silky flesh of the Casaba is “watery and mild,” with a “papaya-like” flavor. Since their rind is so thick, the melons are rarely fragrant; to best gauge their ripeness, look for deep-yellow, evenly colored fruits.
A European cantaloupe that is available in specialty markets in the U.S., this melon is smaller than the North American variety and has a thin, smooth, khaki-colored rind. Not as sweet as the common cantaloupe, it has a “tannic acidity” and a “spicy and lemony” complexity.
Although the netted skin of this melon is similar to that of a cantaloupe, its ivory-colored flesh is a stark contrast. This flesh is “juicy and smooth,” with a “tropical flavor” tinged with a distinct “root beer” taste. Sharlyne melons tend to spoil quickly and should be eaten within a few days of purchase.
Sometimes called “Juan Canary,” these oblong melons have waxy, bright-yellow skin and cream-colored flesh. Their flavor is “luscious and rich,” but some tasters found the notes of “cotton candy” and “brown sugar” to be “over-the-top sweet.” Texturally, canary melons are “velvety smooth” and “very juicy.”
Also called “horned melon,” this New Zealand fruit is recognizable for its leathery, bright-orange, spike-covered skin. The interior of the kiwano is filled with an emerald green “jelly-like pulp” that has a texture similar to pomegranate seeds. Its “sweet-sour” flavor recalls “banana, lime, and watermelon.”
This egg-shaped Peruvian fruit can vary widely in size from just a few inches to almost a foot in length. The flesh underneath its light golden, purple-streaked skin has an “earthy” flavor and a “sweet honey aftertaste.” The tough skin, though edible, can be easily removed with a vegetable peeler if desired.
This large, slightly elongated melon has bright, creamy yellow skin and pinkish-orange flesh. A cousin of the Casaba melon, this extremely fragrant variety has a strong “peppery-floral” aroma, a “balanced, slightly musty” acidity, and “dense, smooth” flesh.